In my opinion, the concept of no competition in Aikido is "cute". I think Osensei set up Aikido as a non -competitive art just because he understood that he couldn't possibly eliminate competition between training partners, so he wanted to limit it as much as possible.
I agree, Mike, that the concept of no-competition is "cute." In some ways, aikido is an extremely competitive environment. By removing pugilism as a means of determining the overall skill and level of a practitioner, aikido actually set up something far more competitive. I'm not determining that there has to be a negative factor in all that, but zooming out a bit and examining aikido in that light, we can see that is it a world chock-full of competition.
By eschewing matches, aikido propelled the competition to the levels of politics, business, rank and file, etc.. This can be seen as early as the rift between Tohei and Aikikai. It can be seen in the establishment of territories. It can be seen in the promotion of rank. It can be seen in favoritism.
I think, in terms of growth, there are positive aspects to this kind of design. In nature, we can see trees and shrubs that are quick-growing and fast-spreading. In organizations and schools, early splits can ultimately be quite healthy in terms of proliferating the central memes that lie within the core.
One of the principle memes spread through aikido is non-resistance. It's one thing to roll it around as an intellectual concept, and quite another to embody it and live from a state that is not "of" it, but "from" it. The internalizing of not resisting resistance is exactly what would have Tohei move around the corner from Hombu, hang up his own picture, and start his own school (branch) of aikido.
And similar growth movements can be seen occurring not only with direct students of Ueshiba, but with students of his students. I'm sure there are some who've read through some of my recent posts who might find me rebellious and even out of line at times. In one aspect, that's entirely accurate. In another, I find myself prompted by an inner drive to fullfil my small contribution to the growth of aikido and aiki arts.
There is obviously a large area of aikido that truly is non-competitive, because the environment itself allows for so many individual interpretations of the core principles.
But I think it is an important aspect that long-practicing aikidoka, as well as those being newly introduced, understand the highly-competitive and dynamic nature of the aikido arena. And, again, through non-resistance, embrace the concept as essential to its overall growth and the self discovery of its practitioners.